For young coaches just getting started it was a rite of passage. For veteran coaches, especially those at small schools, it was something which went with the territory.
Lining the field, whether it be for football, baseball, softball or soccer, while not in the job description nor covered in a class in college, was in that “other duties as may be assigned” category. “I had to do it when I started,” said Bryan County assistant football coach Sean Coburn who has been coaching for 28 years. “I hated it and if you got a line crooked you had to go back and do it over. If you were doing a logo you had to figure how to get the paint and the colors right. “After that first job when I started interviewing for jobs I would ask if I had to line the field. If they said yes, I just moved on.” In recent years Bryan County’s Board of Education started using employees to handle the task but it was still a part of the coaching culture. This spring thanks to some forward thinking the county took another step toward becoming one of the more progressive school systems in the state when it signed a lease agreement to start using the Turf Tank to paint the athletic fields at its schools.
To watch the Turf Tank line a field as Coburn and this writer did is like looking at something out of Star Wars. It is a both a time and personnel saver.
“It’s amazing,” Coburn said. “Every line is perfect.” Operated by school system employee Jep Newberry the Turf Tank is a robot with a GPS system which can paint a football field in two hours. It is operated by one man who has an i-pad tablet with all of the programming.
Turf Tank is a Danish company founded in 2018 with eight employees. Today, per its web site, it had 150 employees with its North American operations based in Marietta, Ga.
“We got it about four months ago,” Newberry said. “Right now, I’m the only one operating it although we have others trained to use it.
“Last year operating our gas-powered machine we would have three men out here or at Richmond Hill painting practice fields or the other fields,” Newberry said. “Then if you had a (football) game you would have to have everybody out here and that would be our seven- man crew. “That would take us three or four hours. One man and one machine doing the same job it took seven. In half the time. The lines are perfect and I can program it to do numbers and logos, too.”
Soccer, baseball and lacrosse fields can be done in an hour or less.
Turf Tank is being used by several major colleges and professional teams but it is new to the high school rank in Georgia. Per the company’s website Bryan County is the only school system outside the metro Atlanta area to be using the Turf Tank.
“We had heard about it from vendors,” Jeff Hodges, Director of Planning and Logistics for the BOE, said. “We listened to the company and heard their sales pitch. It looked like a cost savings mainly through time and personnel.
“We did our research, talked to people and decided to do it,” Hodges said. “We got it back in the spring and it’s getting used a lot. One guy with an i-pad can operate it and while it’s painting the field, he can be doing other things such as cutting the grass.
“Joel Ballesteros, who is our grounds superintendent, takes a lot of pride in our fields as we all do. He’s very passionate about it and this is going to help his team.”
In addition to saving on time and man power it has been proven Turf Tank will also reduce the amount of paint used by 50 percent which is another cost savings.